All About Provenance

“Provenance establishes the history of ownership. Not authenticity. But a good provenance certainly supports authentication, removes all doubt towards the legitimacy of ownership, whilst eliminating disputes and claim towards the work once sold.

On the contrary, if an artwork is authentic, nothing can take away the genuineness even when no documents ever existed. Not even provenance. Genuine works of this nature just happens to hover on a different plane because of unexpected turn of events or otherwise beit relocation, war, death, spring cleaning, debt settlement, divorce, gifts, donations, even hunger, as they fall into the hands of cafe owners, descendants, friends, undeserving people, neighbours, strangers, cleaners, movers, antique shops, flea market, pawn shops or the worse case scenario, refuse bins! With no receipts, papers, or even a signature intact, should authentic works of this nature be appraised at a lower price?

Provenance is a Western invention. It is the trailing bloodline of every personal property since the day the object leaves the hand of its creator beit the artist, craftsmen or artisan till the present owner. With more claims of stolen items being sold at auctions at frivolous prices, provenance became a necessity deterrent from costly lawsuits, and a convenient tool to reject dubious consignments. Nowadays, it behaves as a stop valve to deter ‘blockage’. A term appraisers use when too many items of similar nature flock the market causing the value of a personal property once thought rare, but now ubiquitous, to fall. In instances like this, should provenance be abused to control the flow thus preventing blockage from happening?

But if provenance is vital, how could one Chinese ceramic found in a shoebox, and another, which was used as a door stopper, escape this stringent necessity? By pure reasoning, it is certainly doubtful that accidental possessions and unexpected finds like these do have papers to back them up. This includes the controversial possession of two zodiac animal busts that once grace the walls of the Forbidden City in China. Why, one wonders, that the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 does not apply to consignments such as these, when war spoils should be repatriated accordingly?

Many reasons could be factored in but one seemingly good reason why reputed auction houses are prepared to take chances by breaking conventions is the quality exuded by an irresistible find. Hence, it goes without saying that no matter what, provenance no matter how muzzy it is, cannot take away the authenticity or genuineness of a property, more so when no report of theft was ever recorded, which begs the question: “How should one keeps track of cultural relics and papers and address the grey areas of provenance, when for example the Cultural Revolution of China 1966 displaces everything? Even real estate title deeds. Wouldn’t this imply that all Chinese relics are in-consignable? And if that being the case, wouldn’t the Western collector indirectly has more to benefit in the auction circuit than their Eastern counterparts?

Since early 2000 as auction records would have shown, the demand for Chinese cultural relics soared a million times over. The downside being so did their bad debts reach an unprecedented scale. The reason is because some Chinese sellers view provenance as double standard Western capitalism designed to subdue Chinese consignors. Hence their retaliation by not paying. This triggers a series of revamps implemented for would-be bidders never seen in auction rules before to curb the frequent fraudulent bid calls. But not long after, the Chinese Central Committee decided to set up their own auction houses, after some unsuccessful attempts to buyout some reputed auction platforms. Not one but a few.

Besides these concerns, there are scenarios of consignors owning the right papers, but sold duplicated artworks to unsuspecting buyers sometimes with the original papers, at times without~ the original work of which they still keep. There too are cases of genuine artworks without the necessary papers being mistakenly rejected as dubious. Incidents like this happens frequently at auction houses, especially those which lacks expertise. At the other end of the spectrum are consignors with underworld links whose lawless reputation exceeds the genuineness of their provenance. And there are also the uninformed collectors who seem to invest more in dubious artworks, that when their collection is assessed as a whole, cautious auction houses will shun away as quickly. Last but not least are cases where dubious artworks by famous artists and forgeries appears in open auctions, as favours to appease their high-powered buyers. Cases like this are not one-of-a-kind but ubiquitous. What is more beguiling is can dubious artworks possesses genuine provenance then escape close scrutiny? Think about it.

In most cases, properties that fetches record prices has an important personality or impeccable history of ownership attached to it. These personalities simply overshadow the long trail of provenance required. So much so that it has become the norm for auction houses of repute to turn away those which do not have. But does that mean that collections coming from important personalities or collectors are always genuine? The answer is a resounding no. Because every collector, no matter how experienced they are, is vulnerable to deception. More so when they lack knowledge in their field of interest, more frequently occurring in the early stages of collecting.

Many a time, good properties has been rejected by reputed auction houses because provenance could not be established. This is indeed sad for genuine collectors who turns their hobby into a lucrative investment that each time they spotted a valuable piece going for a song at the flea market, they need to request for formal papers. Wouldn’t that raise eyebrows when sometimes, the asking price is merely USD10? Moreover, what kind of provenance and lineage does one expect from a country which has only gained independence for slightly more than a decade? Or another that survives a Holocaust or a cultural revolution? A string of DNA’s or atoms to backtrace your fossil collection?

Imagine a genuine Picasso or a Pollock not previously known which has no provenance. Will the auction house reject it and regard it as fraud just because no evidence of its existence was ever recorded in the catalogue raisonnè nor the stolen objects databases? Or will they report it so that the possessor is arrested? Or would they set forth an ingenious marketing strategy to have it sold because of the high estimate it could fetch? It is well known that the latter does happen to some blue collar consignors who uses their lifetime savings to build their collection. That will again depends if their engagement is convincing enough that these auction houses would stick out their neck to help them.

The story about provenance is long and wide. With many twists and turns. To those who aren’t aware, perhaps this is the time to pay heed to the propensity of tracking down provenance. If possible, to backtrack it till it hits the date of origin of produce or manufacture. If they want to have it consigned in the future that is. But in their own way, auction houses protect their own integrity by screening and investigating each and every property they intend to accept. Because they understand that costly mistakes can seriously damage their reputation. Especially the provenance tied to these properties. Good auction houses also constantly refine their method and mode of working to ensure staff integrity to ward off malicious deals schemed by greedy collectors wanting to dispose off their doubtful loots.

Recently there were two cases of properties fetching ludicrously high prices, many times higher than the low estimate being sold online. One is of a Chinese Republican type vase of very poor condition, the other, a Song dynasty censer of doubtful attribution. How does this happen one wonders? Although money laundering seems to be the obvious reason, scammers of today are now getting more creative than ever before, scouting for loopholes in the terms and conditions of selling platforms to thrive, and if all auction houses carries with them disclaimers, then, so much the better for scammers to roll out vague deals, then disappear by the click of a button. Because of voluminous listings, most auction platforms have no control over fraudulent claims, auction estimates, and provenance especially – the hammer price of which still relies very much on the bidders discretion and direct engagement with the seller at the other end. Provenance? They disappeared into the backseat. Online auction platforms in general are commission agents. Not authenticators doing you a service. They provide you with an avenue to dispose your possessions. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Now the final question. Are there categories of properties that doesn’t require provenance? Yes there are. Maybe if one is tired of trailing provenance, they should perhaps collect something else that doesn’t require them. Think about it.

– Kris Lee 2014/2021.
Appraiser/Auctioneer/Collector of art, antiques and collectibles with more than 3 decades of

doyen of photography

~Ismail Hashim (1940-2013)~ image copyright Kris Lee 2013

~Ismail Hashim (1940-2013)~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prof. Ismail Hashim is the doyen of Malaysian photography. Passed away recently, this is a rare shot of him nestled in between subjects that matters to him most and quite often depicted in his works. Unknown to many, Ismail is camera shy and I was most privileged to immortalize him over a cup of coffee. Pictures taken at Kedai Kopi Chuan Foong, Jln Chan Siew Teong, Tanjung Bungah, Penang.

~~Ismail Hashim (1940-2013)~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~~Ismail Hashim (1940-2013)~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~Ismail Hashim (1940-2013)~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~Ismail Hashim (1940-2013)~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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earth stump

~earth stump~ image copyright Kris lee 2013

~earth stump~
image copyright Kris lee 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once there was a tree.. and she loved a little boy. And everyday the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest. He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and eat apples.And they would play hide-and-go-seek. And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. And the boy loved the tree…. very much. And the tree was happy.

But time went by. And the boy grew older. And the tree was often alone. Then one day the boy came to the tree and the tree said, “Come, Boy, come and climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and eat apples and play in my shade and be happy.” “I am too big to climb and play” said the boy. “I want to buy things and have fun. I want some money?” “I’m sorry,” said the tree, “but I have no money. I have only leaves and apples. Take my apples, Boy, and sell them in the city. Then you will have money and you will be happy.” And so the boy climbed up the tree and gathered her apples and carried them away. And the tree was happy.

But the boy stayed away for a long time…. and the tree was sad. And then one day the boy came back and the tree shook with joy and she said, “Come, Boy, climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and be happy.” “I am too busy to climb trees,” said the boy. “I want a house to keep me warm,” he said. “I want a wife and I want children, and so I need a house. Can you give me a house ?” ” I have no house,” said the tree. “The forest is my house, but you may cut off my branches and build a house. Then you will be happy.” And so the boy cut off her branches and carried them away to build his house. And the tree was happy.

But the boy stayed away for a long time. And when he came back, the tree was so happy she could hardly speak. “Come, Boy,” she whispered, “come and play.” “I am too old and sad to play,” said the boy. “I want a boat that will take me far away from here. Can you give me a boat?” “Cut down my trunk and make a boat,” said the tree. “Then you can sail away… and be happy.” And so the boy cut down her trunk and made a boat and sailed away. And the tree was happy… but not really.

And after a long time the boy came back again. “I am sorry, Boy,” said the tree,” but I have nothing left to give you – My apples are gone.” “My teeth are too weak for apples,” said the boy. “My branches are gone,” said the tree. ” You cannot swing on them – ” “I am too old to swing on branches,” said the boy. “My trunk is gone, ” said the tree. “You cannot climb – ” “I am too tired to climb” said the boy. “I am sorry,” sighed the tree. “I wish that I could give you something…. but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump. I am sorry….” “I don’t need very much now,” said the boy, “just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.” “Well,” said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, “well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.” And the boy did. And the tree was happy.

This inspiring classic poem “The Giving Tree” was chosen as the appropriate fit to complement this image. Picture taken at Hollywood Beach, Tj Bungah Penang.

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alleys of old

~alley of old~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~alleys of old~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love these long forgotten alleys of old

Unplastered walls

Roots that grew to be heard

Incidentally, they were all planted by birds

Huge giants they are

But neglected

I love these long forgotten alleys of old..

~roots 1~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~roots 1~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~roots III~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~roots III~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~roots II~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~roots II~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

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(Pictures taken at Penang Pier opposite the Jetty, Weld Quay, Penang)

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extended family

~extended family~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~extended family~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

Overseas Chinese left their motherland at a tender age and through sheer hard work and good foresight, many astute businessmen found fortune and eventually became well-known philanthropists. Apart from contributing to society, these visionaries pamper themselves with homes large enough to fit a few generations of “extended family” leaving their wealth to be managed by trust funds. As a result, younger generations today still continue to enjoy the fruits of their efforts with children and grandchildren being sent overseas to further their studies and eventually migrate~ leaving these homes to the care of their faithful caretakers. Many of these homes were today rented out, leased or sold to commercial concerns as well as educational institutions because it is no longer cheap to maintain houses like this. One such house (as shown in pic) is currently leased to Kentucky Fried Chicken, an American fast food corporation who had tapped into the Penang market since the seventies. Picture taken at Larut Rd, Penang.

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palms palms palms

~palms palms palms~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~palms palms palms~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The name ‘Penang’ comes from the modern Malay name Pulau Pinang, which means Isle of the Areca Nut Palm (Areca catechu, family Palmae) and this palm tree appears on both the State Flag and its coat of arms. There are thousands of species of palm in this world and if one cruises down the streets of Penang, chances are one would stumble upon stunningly beautiful mature species such as these with captivating inflorescence. (At the time of posting, the palm pictured above has been felled to make way for development). Pictures taken at Jln Dr Lim Chwee Leong, Penang.

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~other palms~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~other palms~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~other palms~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~other palms~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

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Studio of Hitori

~Hitori outside his Studio~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~Hitori outside his Studio~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the age of twenty, Hitori left Japan to pursue his interest in Art. He traveled across the art capital for the next twenty learning all the ropes to find himself settling curiously down with his lovely wife in Penang and last year happens to be their twenty-fifth year of residence. A little odd but very humble, Hitori is not an atypical Japanese that we know of. Blending in well with the local folks, he stays in a pre-war house filled with discards which he masterly assembles them into works of art- an interesting sort of collage between conceptual, assemblages and sculpture and finally outdid himself after being commissioned to create a gigantic ten storey high sculpture facing our easterly coast called the “One Blue Sky”. Hitori also initiated the “Penang Island Sculpture Trail” where all his well-known sculptor friends he invited from all over the world were encouraged to stamp their mark in Penang with their sculpture contributions hence leaving a trail of Art he gifted Penang. Picture taken at Stewart Lane, Penang.

~assemblage~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~assemblage~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~assemblage~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~assemblage~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~experiments~ image copyright Kris lee 2012

~experiments~
image copyright Kris lee 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Two Riders, Three Pillions

~two riders, three pillions~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~two riders, three pillions~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

Motorcycles made its presence felt on the streets of Penang more than half a century ago and it brought smiles on the faces of many who were looking for a convenient and cheaper mode of transport to ease their daily activities. To the younger generation, it is this vehicle that paces their first step towards independence. Picture taken at Jln Masjid Kapitan Keling, Penang.

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Acheen Minaret

~acheen street minaret~ image copyright Kris lee 2012

~acheen minaret~
image copyright Kris lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six years after the founding of Penang in 1786, a well known tycoon Syed Hussain Mohd Aidid shifted his base from Acheh, a popular spice route in North Sumatera to Penang. Of Arabian stock as well as a member of the royal house of Acheh, Syed Hussain was wooed by Captain Francis Light, the founder of Penang to establish his base here. His bait, reasonable autonomy to trade and self govern his household, his slaves and his clansmen as in accordance to his custom and his Moslem belief. He settled himself where Armenian Street and Acheen Street is and from there, works his ways into the hearts and minds of its inhabitants thereafter establishes an enclave between these few adjoining roads for his clansmen together with other Moslems from the same area to trade, rapport and cohabit like one close knitted family. Francis Light was not wrong. His efforts paid off when Penang became a favored spice route and the choice embarkation point for Moslems on a sojourn to Mecca, their holy land. Twenty two years on, Syed Hussain embarked to built a proper mosque to serve the community and that was how Acheen Street Mosque came to being, a sturdy structure snugged in between inferior houses of timber and attap. Syed Hussain passed away in 1840 and as is customary, his mausoleum is built inside the mosque compound. This minaret stood as a legacy of his duty towards his own race and belief that made it all possible for him.

This minaret built in Mughal style has a conspicuous pothole. Tradition says it was the result of cannon fire although some octogenarians claim loud booms once came from it. Despite the dispute, record shows that this mosque possesses a cannon of its own and the firing once led to a serious clash between two factions of the town Moslems over the actual date of the end of the month of the ramadan period. Whilst one faction who attends the Acheen Street Mosque was celebrating Hari Raya, the other faction who venerates at the Kapitan Kling mosque a short distance away was still fasting. After that incident, the town community compromised and handed down a decree that town Moslems must alternate between both mosque for their Friday prayers and those caught venerating at the wrong venue would be penalized. Peculiar as it is, the rule still stands today. Picture taken at Armenian Street, Penang.

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Hainanese Bombe Alaska

~Bombe Alaska Hainan Style~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~Hainanese Bombe Alaska~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Considered the mother of all desserts, ‘Bombe Alaska’, an ice-cream cake covered with an igloo of meringue emerging from an oven found its way into the hearts of Penangites through Hainan Cookboys. Hainanese were seamen from China but locally, they became favored cooks of our colonial masters because of their skill in conjuring up many western recipes with a peculiar twist and taste of its own, the result of having to imagine the descriptions of their bosses who speaks in a language they could hardly understand. When the British ceded control of then Malaya, many of these Hainan Cook Boys as they were called became chefs of their own restaurants serving delectable delicacies they use to serve their masters with like Choon Pneah, Asam Heh, Roti Babi, Barsteaks and Macaroni Pie to name but a few but as all popular recipes would, their own style of Bombe Alaska became one of the first that faded into oblivion until a revival of interest came right after Georgetown was accorded a UNESCO Heritage status. Today, some restaurants are competing for customers serving their own concoction of Bombe Alaska as a recipe proud of its origin. The fact is, it is a real show stopper to see it being served flambed and every time it emerges from the kitchen, it never fail to garner curious onlookers. Little did anyone know that this recipe was first whipped up to commemorate the United States purchase of Alaska in 1867. Picture taken at Yeng Keng Hotel, Chulia Street, Penang.

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Motor Mechanics

~motor mechanics~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~motor mechanics~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most motor mechanics like Ah Lung left school at a very young age to take up apprenticeship in blue collar trades. Like the rest, they leave their hometown and survive on mearger earnings living in shared apartments, only going home once or twice in a month or during festive seasons. Most of them never if ever left their trade but some lucky ones became bosses of their own repair shop.

~apprentice mechanics~ image copyright Kris lee 2012

~apprentice mechanics~
image copyright Kris lee 2012

Over the years, as Ah Lung became a more formidable repairman, he was also given the task to head younger apprentices that was allowed into the stable. Currently, there are no guidelines compelling skilled work force to attain competency certificates thus, this cycle of how skills were handed down naturally repeats itself. Picture taken at Jln Nanning, Penang.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The White Mens Grave

`the white mans' grave~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

`the white man’s grave~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaded under a canopy of cascading plumerias in Northam Road is an old graveyard that houses Penang’s early settlers, missionaries and administrators. Most of them succumbed to malaria at a very tender age including Captain Francis Light, the founder himself thus earning early Penang the epithet “the white man’s grave”. Thomas Leonowen, husband of the noted Anna Leonowen whose stint at the Siamese court tutoring the wives and children of the king which was later made into a hit musical called ‘The King and I’ himself is himself an early settler.

~other views~ image copyright Kris lee 2012

~other views~
image copyright Kris lee 2012

~other views~ image copyright Kris lee 2012

~other views~
image copyright Kris lee 2012

~other views~ image copyright Kris lee 2012

~other views~
image copyright Kris lee 2012

This graveyard once stood at the edged of the town next to paddy fields and vegetable plots but as the city grew, it is today smacked right in the heart of the inner city attracting history buffs more than their descendants. Pictures taken at the Protestant Cemetery, Jln Sultan Ahmad Shah, Penang.

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Medicated Masseurs

~medicated masseurs~ image copyright Kris lee 2012

~medicated masseurs~
image copyright Kris lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite the long wait, locals has a quaint attachment to traditional Chinese masseurs rather than those physiotherapists found in hospitals whenever they experience discomforts and pains in their joints. From whence thee treatment came about is anybody’s guess but their endeavor in providing comfort and relief to those in agony is a testimony to their immense popularity. Here, a sitting customer patiently anticipates his turn outside the treatment room where the ‘sinseh’ stations himself while a young disciple gets his relief playing games on a handheld gadget. Picture taken at Jln Samak, Off Federal Cinema, Penang.

~feel good wait~ image copyright Kris lee 2012

~feel good wait~
image copyright Kris lee 2012

~kitchenette of oils~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~kitchenette of oils~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~agony and attestations~ image copyright Kris lee 2012

~agony and attestations~
image copyright Kris lee 2012

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Victoria’s Clocktower

~Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Memorial Clocktower~ image copyright Kris Lee 2013

~Victoria’s Clocktower~
image copyright Kris Lee 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To commemorate Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee, a Jubilee Clock Tower was erected at King Edward’s Place, at the junction of Light Street and Beach Street, Georgetown, Penang courtesy of  Cheah Chean Eok, a distinguish local Chinese tycoon in the same year. Built in the Moorish style, the tower stands sixty feet tall, one foot for each year of Victoria’s reign. Unfortunately, Queen Victoria never stepped foot on Penang soil which was once a British settlement neither did she live long enough to see the memorial clocktower dedicated to her completed. By the time it was completed in 1902, the queen had died. Picture taken at King Edwards Place, Light Street/Beach Street junction, Penang.

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quaint looking postbox

~quaint looking postbox~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~quaint looking postbox~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curiosities never fail to garner audiences and this quaint looking postbox dating back to the Victorian era now joins many others in the list of historical objects once found in abundance on the island. Painted in fire engine red and mounted on a base made of concrete, this 200 year old cast iron ’grand old lady’ still serves the residents up in Penang Hill. Picture taken in Penang Hill, Penang.

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Gun Hill Temple

~Gun Hill Temple~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~Gun Hill Temple~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most hindu temples in Penang were built in accordance to the Dravidian discipline, an architectural style found in South India and Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan Temple, better known as the Penang Hill Hindu Temple was no exception. It started off in the 1800′s as a small shrine dedicated to the Hindu deity Murugan by the Indian sepoys and sedan chair carriers and had since grown in size. It is located at the mount within Penang Hill called Gun Hill sharing its site with a Malay mosque. Shown here is one of the ornated cornerpieces found on the roof. Picture taken at Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan Temple, Gun Hill, Penang Hill.

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hungry ghost

~hungry ghost~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~hungry ghost~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

The ‘Hungry Ghost Festival’ happens annually during the Seventh month of the Chinese calendar. During this period, traders and residents from the same street or community would collectively raise funds to organize a feast complete with entertainment in the form of traditional puppet or opera shows or the modern version called ‘Ko Tai’ (a stage performance) to appease ‘Tai Su Yeah’ (God of Hades pictured above) who is supposedly the deity who protects mortals and these wandering spirits, whom were released from the underworld to roam about for one full month.

~other paper effigies~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~other paper effigies~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

There is a marked difference between ancestor worshipping that happens during ‘Cheng Beng’ (All Souls Day) as compared to the Hungry Ghost Festival, which is a ritual to appease all ghosts, be they young or old, in the hope that these ‘lost souls’, some of whom are out to seek vengeance, will not disturb them. And especially to those termed ‘wandering spirits’. Spirits of whom were denied proper ritual sent-offs when they passed away, those who died in road accidents and their souls were left to roam, or those whose next of kin and ancestors forgets to pay homage to them, therefore the term ‘Hungry Ghosts’. During this month, younger children and adults are taught to observe the strictest of curfews, latest by midnight, to avoid encountering these spirits.  The food served on the altar are meant to appease ‘Tai Su Yeah’ who would relish the offerings first, before the believers can consume them, and the first few ‘premium’ rows in front of the Ko Tai are reserved for these spirits on the fifteen night of the seven month. The paper effigies and ‘Hell’ money are meant for the spirits, and are burnt.  Superstitious as it is, the Seventh month is also a taboo period for those wanting to ‘tie-the-knot’, relocate their home or business premise, kick-start a business, career, education etc. as bad luck is said to befall them. Exactly midnight, on the last day of the festival, the ghosts would all return back to their own world, as the Gates of Hell closes. The effigy of Tai Su Yeah is then lit up in a bonfire alongside the rest of the paper effigy. The array of food left on the altar table, after being consumed by the spirits, would be distributed to the needy. Picture taken at Concordia Road, Pulau Tikus, Penang.

~guardians of hade~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~guardians of hade~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

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fresh catch

~fresh catch~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~fresh catch~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

Traditional livelihood has over the years given way to rapid development and the fishermen at Northbeach, a small promontory behind Ocean Green Seafood Restaurant has also not been spared. For the very few who thrived however, their sampans still brought on fresh catches as fishmongers and restaurateurs await. Picture taken at Northbeach, Jln Sultan Ahmad Shah, Penang.

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drop zone

~drop zone~ image copyright Kris Lee 2013

~drop zone~
image copyright Kris Lee 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I don’t know much about photography except that I did learn  composition  from  art

school. I don’t know much about writing because I didn’t do well  in  English  during

school days. I guess there is this unseen hand that shapes our interest through our

life experiences.”

~Kris lee 2013~

lunchbox meal

~lunchbox meal~ image copyright Kris lee 2012

~lunchbox meal~
image copyright Kris lee 2012

Lunch is an important meal to local folks. To the lesser fortunate, having a simple lunchbox meal is indeed a blessing courtesy of some religious societies which made it their daily affair to donate food. Sitting at the temple courtyard annexed to a shaded shrine, temple devotees were also seen going about performing their customary rites in the hope that their prayers would eventually be answered. Ballets of roof tiles supposedly to be used for the ongoing renovation were seen parked at the forefront. Picture taken at the Goddess of Mercy Temple, Jln Masjid Kapitan Keling, Penang.

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bird’s nest fern

~bird's nest fern~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~bird’s nest fern~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird’s Nest Fern, supposedly of the species ‘Asplenium Nidus’ grow well in the tropics under warm humid conditions in areas partial to full shade. Their fronds are a characteristic light green in color, often crinkled at the edges with a black midrib lined with spores forming in clusters at the underside and they are often found attached on the branches and trunks of trees, the result of bird’s droppings laden with seeds that the birds consume. Each of these fronds (similar to banana leaves) called ‘lamina’ can grow up to 150 cm in length. These two giants are spotted some 15 meters off the ground where the huge tree stood. Picture taken at Persiaran Kuari, Penang.

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Preschool Heroes

~preschool heroes~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~preschool heroes~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

Merdeka Day or Independence Day in Malaysia is celebrated annually on August the 31st. Every year, under the purview of the  Education Ministry, all schools are required to initiate their own programs. Seen here in Penang are preschoolers in a National school singing patriotic songs~ both the new ones as well as the old and waving the National flags lending a unique charm to the occasion. Picture taken at Lorong Maktab, Penang.

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Wile Away Seniors!

~wile away seniors!~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~wile away seniors!~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senior citizens have their own ways to wile away their time. While some prefer to tend to the needs of their grandchildren, others would sit around having nostalgic talks with friends at coffee shops or go for evening walks. In the morning, some practices “Tai Chi” to keep fit. But there are those who prefer to stay independent and carry on working till their twilight years nevermind if the returns is insufficient to make a good living because chances are most of them are cared for with pocket money chipped in by their offspring to ensure all is well. Confucianism has its good values and its precepts on filial piety are highly revered throughout the local Chinese community.  This “apek”- old man in local colloquial Hokkien is seen tending to a traditional cake stall by the roadside. Picture taken at Carnarvon Street, Penang.

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Shadow Theatre

~shadow puppet~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~shadow puppet~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

Sbaek Thom (literary meaning large leather) is a traditional art form from Cambodia. This shadow theatre made its way to Penang a year ago, being invited as a participant for our annual Georgetown Festival celebrations. Being awarded by UNESCO as a cultural rarity, it narrates solely the Hindu epic of Ramayana. Here, two puppeteers were seen rehearsing for their one night performance. Picture taken at Khoo Kongsi Square, Armenian Street.

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Cannonball Monkeys

~cannonball monkeys~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~cannonball monkeys~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

Cannonball trees are not native to Penang yet some fully grown ones of the genus (Couroupita guianensis) could be found aligning the entrance at the botanical garden. Basically it is a tree with long tentacle-like stalks sprouting and covering its trunk out of which brownish round fruits the shape of cannonballs hung. These fruits were said to possess medicinal qualities and had been used to treat colds and stomach aches but many wonders about its edibility.

~leg stretching exercise~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~leg stretching exercise~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

In this picture some monkeys (long tailed macaques) appear to be camouflaging (try locating its tail) and feeding on what appears to be the flowers of which blooms its fruits. Picture taken at the Botanical Gardens, Waterfall Rd, Penang.

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Water Shrine

~water shrine~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~water shrine~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About five feet wide, these planks built on bakau stilts takes one to the shrine (dedicated to “mazu”- deity of the fishermen and sailors) and further— as it also serves as a dock for smaller, much smaller feeder ships called ‘sampans’ and ‘tongkangs’ due to the shallowness of its waters which is why Penang, once a thriving port of the Southeast in the late 1700′s lost much of its glitter to Singapore after the latter was founded in 1819. On a curious note, the outpost fronting the shrine is a makeshift toilet- four walls, a roof and a pooping hole on the platform. Picture taken at Tan Jetty, Weld Quay, Penang.

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Overlord

~overlord~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~overlord~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many local Chinese revere to “Datuk Kongs”~ spiritual deities of ‘Malay’ descent whom are believed to be overlords of the terrain in which one resides. Because of their roaming presence, most locals finding themselves in unfamiliar places restrain themselves from answering nature’s call, spit or utter anything rude or offensive in that vicinity for fear of offending or incurring the wrath of these spirits which are known to be fierce~ their punishment for offences, reputedly death! The words “Datuk” and “Kong” means the same. It stood for ‘Grandpa’~ the first, as spoken in colloquial Malay and the second, in Hokkien. These spirits have names and are identified by mediums after having undergone a trance and are to be addressed as such but how these Malay spirits came to be revered and honored by the Chinese instead of the Malay’s themselves I believe is due to the arrival of Islam which forbids pagan belief.

~datuk awang~ image copyright Kris Lee 2012

~Datuk Awang~
image copyright Kris Lee 2012

In this picture, a young man is seen going about his daily praying ritual of appeasing three ‘Datuks’ whose shrines are believed to be their homes. At the forefront is what he simply called “Datuk Kong”, the one behind, is known by Datuk Nenek (a female spirit) and Datuk Awang. One could see two songkoks (a malay headgear) placed at the right side of the joss stick censer. Picture taken at Jln Nanning, Penang.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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